A doctor who helps screen pilots for health and safety issues is accused of illegally selling drugs like oxycodone out of his offices at John F. Kennedy airport and another location in New York, officials said.
Gerald Surya, an internist and senior aviation medical examiner, was arrested Thursday at his New Hyde Park home by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and investigators from the New York Special Narcotics Prosecutors office. NYPD assisted in the investigation.
Surya pleaded not guilty to 26 state charges of criminal sale of a controlled substance in Manhattan court Thursday afternoon.
Surya has practiced in New York for more than 19 years, including doing in-person exams with pilots to certify their medical and mental well-being. Officials did not say if he was dealing drugs directly to pilots he was supposed to be reviewing for certification –- only that he was allegedly selling prescription drugs for cash to "a select group of patients."
Law enforcement sources say the investigation is ongoing into whether he sold drugs to pilots.
Investigators allege Surya has been selling illegal prescriptions since at least 2013, allegedly charging $60 to $100 each from his JFK Medport office as well as the Sun Medical Care offices in Valley Stream.
Prosecutors say the investigation began after he appeared to be writing "a suspicious number" of prescriptions.
Surya allegedly wrote prescriptions in the names of individuals with no legitimate medical need for the controlled substances. In some cases, court documents say he sold multiple prescriptions written to different individuals during a single office visit with a single patient. In others, he allegedly wrote prescriptions for patients who never came into the office.
Prosecutor say patients cooperating with investigators secretly recorded their meetings with Surya. Those tapes allegedly show him negotiating prices.
More than half of the alleged illegal prescriptions were written for oxycodone. Surya also allegedly wrote prescriptions for include Xanax, Vicodin and Percocet, among other medications.
Surya's attorney said his client has no prior arrests and is not a flight risk. He said the doctor, highly regarded among airport staff, was born in Toronto and came to New York when he was 6 months old. He is married with two children, ages 11 and 6. Bail for Surya was set at $500,000 bond.
Surya has appeared on television news programs to comment on air disasters, including the case of the mentally ill co-pilot who crashed a Lufthansa flight into the Alps in March.
“Any doctor can get certified … but they don’t have to be a psychiatrist,” Surya explained on MSNBC in a March 27 interview. “When there are certain vague medical conditions like chest pain or difficulty sleeping those can be indications of actual psychological disorders.”
Investigators said Surya appeared on the news after he knew his offices had been searched.
"By selling prescriptions for addictive drugs, Dr. Surya is charged with jeopardizing the health and well-being of his patients and the general public in order to line his own pockets," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement. "Physicians who abuse their privilege to write prescriptions and funnel many thousands of potentially dangerous pills onto the black market deserve to be prosecuted as the drug dealers they are."